Working through the books in my beach bag

Actually, it’s not a beach bag, simply what would be in a hypothetical beach bag if I was to read at the beach as opposed to the lake, where comfortable, non-sandy, tree-shaded chairs abound.  I had read Home, by Toni Morrison, the weekend before, but last weekend was for Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl.  And mind you, I’m no formal book reviewer, simply a woman who reads books and has friends who ask for my thoughts.

So here are my thoughts.  Both books were strong and skillfully written.  Each was dark – one offering a glimpse of a shameful time in American history, the other exposing a marriage between two seriously damaged people.  Do I recommend them to my friends?  Yes to the first, a qualified yes to the second.  Let me explain.

I’ve always been a Toni Morrison fan; I particularly adored Beloved and The Bluest Eye.  Reading these books was a journey for me, painful at so many times, but oh so worth the trip.  Morrison’s writing is a work of art, exquisite from topic to pacing to prose.  So I expected a lot from Home – a big mistake there, expectations.  Home is different.  Perhaps because the protagonist is male, I didn’t feel the same emotional intensity as I did reading those earlier books, but I certainly felt something.  I liked the characters – a Korean War vet who is very slowly emerging from the horror of the war, and the little sister who has always been his touchstone to humanness.  I loved the theme of overcoming adversity through sheer force of will.  And I loved the writing.  Once I gave up on expectations and simply enjoyed, I was fully on board.  Home is another Toni Morrison gem, capturing time and place with prose that is at once resonant and blunt.  This book has stayed with me; I think of it still, perhaps because it ends on such a note of hope.

I didn’t feel that kind of hope in Gone Girl. The book started at a high point and went steadily downhill the more I learned about the crime – and I use the word crime in its most broad sense.  Mind you, I don’t love murder mysteries, and Gone Girl is that.  But even aside from violence, I had trouble with the central characters.  Okay, Barbara, you don’t have to like them to appreciate their stories.  I can’t tell you how many times I said that as I read.  But I found these characters sad.  Sad.

That said, I couldn’t put the book down! I was riveted to the plot twists and turns – this, even after I knew the ending.  (Sorry, but I’m one of those who reads the last page when the suspense is too great.)  Gone Girl is brilliantly plotted, skillfully written from alternating POVs, and perfectly paced.  This is a modern book, not only in format and content, but in language. I was definitely in the minds of a husband and wife in their mid-thirties and early forties in 2012.  Indeed, the characters are so fully drawn that, by the end of the book, I knew them intimately.  I didn’t like them.  But I did know them, which deepened my appreciation of the psychological insights Ms. Flynn shared.

I read Gone Girl in a single day, definitely the way to go, though I was reading ‘til midnight.  I found it edgy and clever, a cliff-hanger at a dozen different spots.  Do I recommend it?  If you like intricately-layered psychological thrillers, yes.

Have you read either of these books?  Do you agree?  Disagree?  Want to add a thought or two?


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  1. Eileen Thomas on August 8, 2012 at 7:28 am

    I feel the same way about Gone not sure if I liked it read it in 2 days. I have not read Home I just added it to my list.I f you want light summer reading try Solomons OAk by Jo Ann Mapson especially if you like dogs. You are my favorite author. Eileen

  2. June Bourgo on August 8, 2012 at 11:46 am

    I have put Girl Gone on my reading list, but will check out Home. I too prefer female protagonists to relate to. Is it in poor taste to recommend my book? “Winter’s Captive” is one woman’s journey of survival and empowerment. If so, ignore my suggestion. I love your books and you are one of my writing inspirations.

  3. Linda Wefler on August 8, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    I don’t read dark novels, but they are definitely not fluff. I suggest MIDSUMMER by Marcelle Clements. I read it several years ago but it still is really good for a beach read since all the characters are on vacation.

  4. Karen Hastings on August 8, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    Hi Barbara,

    I just started reading “What Happened to Sophie Wilder”by Christopher Beha.He’s a young author and very promising!am really enjoying it!

    Peace and blessings,

  5. Pat on September 9, 2012 at 11:55 am

    Barbara, I am still using the mouse pad you sent out to your readers many years ago! I have changed computers, but still using your mouse pad.

  6. Ella Senter on July 21, 2013 at 4:39 pm

    “Gone Girl” was a gift. I’m not sure I would have chosen it but I did enjoy reading it. I expected a mystery so the beginning supported that belief. Turns out it was really a marriage gone bad; not my cup of tea. That said, I must admit I have recommended it to others because I was engrossed as I read it. I prefer Michael Connelly mysteries and Barbara Delinsky is my favorite.
    Have you ever read “The Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon? I read it at least once a year. It’s that good. If you enjoy the romance of Scotland and the Lairds and Ladies of the Highlands then you will read The Outlander and NEVER forget it. No One Does.

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